Tip Tuesday: Research Supporting Use of Sound-Field Systems!

It’s October, Awesome Audiology Month and last week we discussed a research study regarding PK teachers’ perceptions on the use of sound-field and FM systems.

Most teachers’ felt the use of a sound-field or personal personal FM system in conjunction with auditory management already in place (i.e.  hearing aids (HA) or cochlear implants (CI)) for children who are deaf or hearing impaired,  improved a child’s attention, classroom learning and academic performance.  But is there any research to PROVE that assisstive hearing technologies work?

There is a whole body of research dedicated to addressing the use of assistive technologies for the hearing impaired population.  I will be sharing some of them with you today.  These are just very brief summaries of a few journal articles.  Please refer to the original article for more details.

In 1999, Rosenberg, Blake-Rahter, Heavner, Allen, Redmond, Phillips, & Stigers, completed a 3 year study researching the impact of sound-field amplification systems on listening and learning behaviors of 2, 054 kindergarten, first and second graders in general education classrooms in the state of Florida.  Thirty-three school districts participated and data was collected from 64 classrooms with sound-field amplification and 30 unamplified classrooms.  Analysis of data indicated in amplified classrooms, students exhibited significantly greater improvement in listening and learning skills and behaviors and that growth occurred at a faster rate as compared to performance of students’ from unamplified classrooms.  As a side note to this study, teachers who used the sound-field amplification system reported less vocal strain/demand (Rosenber et al., 1999).

In 2004, Iglehart completed a study targeting phoneme recognition scores of 14 children with bilateral severe-to-profound hearing loss ages 6-16 yrs.  All participant consistently used their CIs and were judged to have “good language and auditory skills”.   Iglehart, assess speech perception in 3 different amplification conditions: 1) classroom sound-field system with speakers mounted to the wall, 2) desktop sound-field amplification system, 3) no sound field.  Data was collected for each amplification setting in both acoustically poor and acoustically ideal classroom environments.  Results of this study demonstrated improved phoneme recognition for children with CIs in both amplified settings (sound-field systems with wall mounted speakers and desktop sound-field systems).  Greater benefits were observed in acoustically poor settings and when compared, improvements with use of desktop sound-field systems were greater than with the use of sound-field system (Iglehart, 2004).

In 2003, Tharpe, Ricketts, & Sladen, assessed sound-field benefit for children with normal hearing to mild hearing loss in the primary grades.  Using a rating scale researchers evaluated speech perception and classroom performance.  Results of this study, indicated improved speech perception in noise and improved classroom performance in classrooms with amplification as compared to unamplified classrooms (Ireland, Hall-Mills, & Millikin, 2013).

According to data in the above articles, there is scientific support for the use of sound-field amplification systems to improve various listening and learning behaviors, phoneme recognition, speech production and classroom performance.  Therefore, the next time you are vying for a sound-field system and your special education director implies this accommodation is unnecessary or ineffective, you can refer him to these journal articles for scientific proof of its efficacy.

Join me next week when I discuss research support for personal FM systems. (once this blog is up and running you will be able to click this link to go there directly)


Iglehart, F. (2004). Speech perception by students with cochlear implants using sound-field systems in classrooms. American Journal of Audiology, 13, 62–72.

Nelson, L., Poole, B., & Munos, K. (2013). Preschool teachers’ perception and use of hearing assistive technology in educational settings. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools44, 239-251. doi: 10.1044/0161-1461(2013/12-0038).

Rosenberg, G., Blake-Rahter, P., Heavner, J., Allen, L., Redmond, B. M., Phillips, J., & Stigers, K. (1999). Improving classroom acoustics (ICA): A three-year FM sound field classroom amplification study. Journal of Educational Audiology, 7, 8–28.